`US sent Headley to Pak despite warnings`

David Headley, the Mumbai terror plotter, was sent to Pakistan by US authorities to work for them as an informant after 9/11 despite a warning that he sympathises with extremist groups, a media report said Monday.

Last Updated: Nov 09, 2010, 00:38 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New York: David Headley, the Mumbai terror
plotter, was sent to Pakistan by US authorities to work for
them as an informant after 9/11 despite a warning that he
sympathises with extremist groups, a media report said today.

According to court records and inquiries, Headley, a small-time drug dealer and informant, arrived in Pakistan in December 2001 and began training with terrorists in February 2002 on "the merits of waging jihad", eventually playing a key role in the Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead, The New York Times reported.

After arriving in Pakistan, Headley began training
with terrorists, eventually playing a key role in the 26/11
attacks that left 166 people dead in Mumbai in 2008, The New
York Times reported quoting court records and interviews.

The October 2001 warning about 50-year-old Headley was
dismissed, the authorities said, as the ire of a jilted
girlfriend and for lack of proof, the paper said. A senior US official said the inquiry has concluded that while the government received warnings, it did not have strong enough evidence at the time to act on them.

Less than a month later, those concerns did not come
up when a federal court in New York granted Headley an early
release from probation so that he could be sent to work for
the US Drug Enforcement Administration in Pakistan. It is
unclear what Headley was supposed to do in Pakistan for the
Americans, it said.

"All I knew was the D.E.A. wanted him in Pakistan as
fast as possible because they said they were close to making
some big cases," Headley`s former probation officer Luis Caso
said.

The Headley case, the NYT said, raised questions about
"why the Americans missed warning signs" that their spy was
involved with extremists groups and "whether some officials
chose to look the other way rather than believe the complaints
about him."

New information suggests that US intelligence agencies
failed to act on at least five instances of warnings since
2001 by Headley`s two wives and other sources who had provided
tip offs about his training with Pakistani terrorists for a
"special mission" against India.

Indians were right to ask, "Why weren`t alarms
screaming?`" Bruce Riedel, a terrorism expert at the Brookings
Institution and a former CIA officer, told NYT.

Officials, speaking on conditions of anonymity, told
the NYT that the FBI discussed with Headley what his
girlfriend had said in 2001 but he told them she was
unreliable.

Headley also told the FBI that he had some
philosophical affinity for some groups but he wasn`t plotting
against the United States.

"Also influencing the handling of the case, they said,
was that he had been a longtime informant," NYT reported.

A September 1998 letter part of court documents showed
that the government considered "reliable and forthcoming,"
that they sent him to Pakistan to "develop intelligence on
Pakistani heroin traffickers."

One person involved in the case said American agencies
had "zero in terms of reliable intelligence. And it was clear
from the conversations about him that the government was
considering assignments that went beyond drugs."

In recent weeks, US government officials have begun to acknowledge that Headley`s path from American informant to transnational terrorist illustrates the breakdowns and miscommunications that have bedevilled them since the Sep 11 attacks.

Warnings about his radicalism were apparently not shared with the drug agency that made use of his ties in Pakistan.

The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., began an investigation into Headley`s government connections after reports last month that two of the former drug dealer`s ex-wives had gone to American authorities between 2005 and 2008, before the Mumbai attacks, to say they feared he was plotting with terrorists.

Headley, 50, born in the US to a Pakistani diplomat and Philadelphia socialite, has pleaded guilty in connection with the Mumbai plot and a thwarted attack against a Danish newspaper that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Headley, who is in federal custody in Chicago, is cooperating with the authorities hoping to avoid the death penalty.

-Agencies inputs